Finding the First Contract

(4 minutes to read)

It is often said by freelancers that the first contract is the most difficult one to find. Some people are lucky enough to move into contracting when an opportunity lands in their lap – for others, it’s a career decision that can feel like a jump into the unknown.

There are many differences between scouting for a permanent position and a shorter-term contract job, so it’s crucial to be prepared and know what you need to do.There are two steps here – finding the right job and winning the contract.

  1.    Finding the opportunity.

There are many different ways to find contract work. Offers can come from friends and colleagues, previous employers who know your skillsets, companies looking for talent through networks such as LinkedIn, or often through specialist recruitment agencies. Established contractors can use reputation and contacts to find their next role – however, as a new face to the marketplace, you may not have this option.

Recruitment agencies are perhaps the easiest way to find contract opportunities. Most agencies have a contract work division and many exclusively work with contractors – it is their livelihood to place people in contract roles, so you know an agency will be working on your behalf. A good recruiter will get to know you and carefully match your CV to prospective contracts – it is worth taking the time to find ones you trust, since you won’t be wasting time considering roles you’re not a good fit for. For each role, a recruiter will have a list of prospective candidates – make sure you are on that list!

Before you can even get a foot in the door, you will need to make sure your CV is up to scratch. Writing a CV for contract work isn’t the same as for permanent roles – your skills and capabilities are key. Our guide to writing a contractor CV will give you all the information you need to write a stand-out CV and a good recruiter will offer advice and make amendments to your CV as needed.

You are working for yourself now – although agencies and contacts can help, ultimately it’s up to you. Remember, when you are not working, your full-time job is finding a job. Don’t rely on anybody else – scout job boards, contact prospective clients, connect with old colleagues and generally make sure you are devoting as much time as possible to securing the next opportunity.

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  1.    Selling yourself.

Getting an interview is an essential first step – but your work isn’t done. As with any job interview, you need to stand out and convince the interviewer that you are the best person for the job. If you have been selective about the roles you apply for, you should be able to walk in the door confident that you are a good candidate – so carry that confidence in with you!

An interviewer for a contract role isn’t concerned with how you will fit into the organisation, your ambitions or your general skill-set. It’s vital to remember that they have a specific problem they need to solve – focus on that. Preparation is important – understand the position, the requirements and the expectations. The best weapon in your armoury will be directly relevant experience, so being able to provide examples of problem-solving and achievement with the specific task(s) you are set are key.

Bring a portfolio, examples of previous work or projects and good references. If you can give the interviewer confidence you will be able to deliver and back it up with hard facts, you are a step ahead already.

Finally, make sure you are well-dressed, professional and punctual. It may seem obvious, but an interview can be failed within the first ten seconds – first impressions are important, so take the time to make sure yours is good!

  1.    Prepare for the future.

Once you have won your first contract, don’t sit back and assume it’s easy from here on out. Keep in contact with good recruiters and start your next contract search early. Work on your professional network – make and maintain contacts, add to your portfolio and keep an ear to the ground for any other opportunities that might be cropping up in the near future.

You will also want to get your financial affairs in order. Many contractors use a specialist contractor accountant to handle their income and tax, inform them how to maximise their income while contracting and advise on the IR35 status of contracts. It’s worth getting this out of the way early – not only will you have peace of mind knowing there’s one less thing to handle in future, you can take advantage of early tax planning and make sure you’re not losing out.

If you’re unsure whether to make the leap into full-time contracting, check out our handy guide to whether contracting is the life for you. If you are in the market for a contractor accountant to help you with your journey, give us a call on 01442 795 100 or email your enquiry over to

Why Dolan Accountancy?

Dolan Accountancy was set up by Simon J Dolan, the man behind the well-known brand SJD Accountancy. With over 25 years experience in the contracting marketing, Dolan Accountancy has the heritage, reputation and credibility you can trust. Working closely with our sister company, Contractor Umbrella, it means we can offer one low cost, fixed fee package at £95 + VAT per month. This gives you the flexibility of using both our Limited Company Accountancy Services and our award winning Umbrella Service, for one inclusive cost. We don’t believe in tiered packages or hidden extra fees, instead we aim to give you everything you need, including:

  • Free Company Formation – This is where it all begins. Once you have decided on an available name, we will form your company free of charge (if using our accountancy services) and it will be ready for you to use in as little as three hours.
  • Free use of Contractor Umbrella – With changes in Public Sector IR35 Legislation we understand that sometimes you are required to contract via an umbrella company. We will keep your limited company ticking over, while you work margin free via our sister company, Contractor Umbrella.
  • A Dedicated Accountant – Your accountant will be there for any company or personal tax advice that you require. We will never outsource work, even to internal teams.
  • Free Access to FreeAgent – The founder behind the multi award winning FreeAgent platform was one of Simon’s first clients, therefore it only seems fitting that we offer all of our clients access to FreeAgent, free of charge.
  • Free Business Banking – We have decided to waive our commission so our clients can use Tide free of charge for the first year.
  • Unlimited IR35 Status Reviews – We will review all of your contracts for IR35 purposes and provide you with our professional opinion as to its status.
  • Free Registered and Director’s Service Office Address – Sometimes you just don’t want your home address on display at Companies House. When you sign up to our accountancy services, we will offer the use of our address as an alternative.
  • Your Business and Personal Taxation Needs – This includes Company Accounts, Director’s Personal Tax Return, VAT Returns, Payroll, Corporation Tax and Dividend advice, to name just a few.
  • Same day payments- We offer same day payments as standard providing funds are received into our account by 9am, for no additional fee.

If you’d like to find out more about how Dolan Accountancy can help you and your business, please give us a call on 01442 795100 or email or